HATE CRIMES/HOMELESS PEOPLE by National Homeless Civil Rights

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 13 Dec 1999 10:48:28 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  Mon, 13 Dec 1999
CC Replies To: National Coalition for the Homeless <nch@ari.net>

Dear Tom [Boland],

I thought your networks might be interested in this piece of research we
just compiled on hate crimes/violence against homeless people.  Please

Have a good holiday season.

Michael [Stoops]


(By the National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project of the National
Coalition for the Homeless (NCH).  NCH is documenting hate crimes/violence
against homeless people.  If you are aware of any crimes/violence against
homeless people, please contact NCH.  Email:  nch@ari.net)

Total No. of Dead in 1999: 29

Total No. of Victims who Suffered Non-Lethal Violence:  6

No. of Cities Where Murders Occurred: 11 (Anchorage, Chicago, Dallas,
Denver, Jeffersonville (IN), Los Angeles, Portland (OR), Rapid City (SD),
Richmond (VA) San Francisco, and Seattle.

Age Range of Accused/Convicted:  14 years of age (two), 16, 17, 18 (three)
19 (four) 20 (two), 21, 28, 29, 32, and 38

Age Range of Victims:  4 months old, 17, 23, 26, 28, 39 (two), 40, 42, 43,
46, 50, 51, 52, 55 and 62

Sex of Victims:  Male:  27
		      Female: 8

Denver (Fall)

Seven Homeless Men Killed.  Two Were Beheaded.

Seven homeless men have been found dead in Denver in the trendy Lower
Downtown district.  Two were beheaded. All of the men were beaten to death,
one so savagely that his skull was in pieces.  And at least two others were
severely beaten.

The discovery of the battered bodies of seven homeless men has Denver
police investigating whether the rash of slayings is the work of a serial
killer preying on homeless people.  Police said that the circumstances
"certainly appear to be similar" in the fatal beatings.

Police have blamed some of the violence on "mall rats," groups of young men
and women who gather near the trendy downtown shopping district known as
the 16th Street Mall.  Many, like the victims, are homeless.

A new wave of fear is passing through Denver's homeless community with the
discovery of these two additional homeless men who were beheaded.  Homeless
people armed themselves with knives, pipes and railroad spikes after
hearing the news of the two latest deaths.

"You can tell there's a lot of concern now," said Del Maxfield of the
Denver Rescue Mission.  "First there were three bodies, then four, then
five, and now there are two more.  So it's a pretty shocking thing for

In early November, police arrested seven young men, all between the ages of
16 and 21, and charged them with assault and robbery in attacks on a street
musician and homeless man.  Two are also suspected in one of the murders.
Two men, ages 18 and 20, and a 16-year-old boy have been charged with
first-degree murder in one of the fatal beatings.  The defendants are part
of a clique police call "mall rats," who hang out around Denver's busy 16th
Street Pedestrian Mall.  Five others have been charged on assault charges
for nonfatal beatings.

Shortly after their arrest, two more men were found dead and beheaded.

The most persistent street rumor is that a pack of young men is picking on
homeless people for sick thrills.  In the only case so far with a witness,
someone told the police that several juvenile male suspects were seen
beating a homeless man in a downtown alley in early September.

They "may get a sort of high or thrill by beating up people, and homeless
are such an easy target," said Police Lt. Judith Will.  "It's sad and

One of the victims, she said, compared a recent beating to "being attacked
by a pack of hyenas."

"Don't they know we are real people?" asked Bill Dennis, a 59-year-old Navy
veteran who has been homeless for four years.

Jeff Chase of the Denver Voice, a street newspaper, wrote:  "Jon Benet is
not the only unsolved killing on the Front Range.  Unlike the death of the
blond little girl, though, there will be no secret grand jury, national
media circus or finger-pointing Governor for these five.  Only the drawers
of the morgue, and then a quiet burial."

John Parvensky, director of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said,
"It is just as important to find and bring the killers to justice as it is
to find the murderer of Jon-Benet Ramsey."

An anonymous donor has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to
the capture and conviction of the killer or killers.

"In Denver, whether one is living in a shelter or one is living in a
palatial home, life is important.  It is critical that we find out who
murdered these individuals," said Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.

"The deaths of seven homeless men have left our community in a state of
disbelief.  We were really taken aback when the two other bodies were
found," said Mayor Webb who has asked U.S. Attorney Janet Reno to provide
FBI resources for the investigation.

Dallas, Texas (Nov.)

Anger at Homeless Turns Deadly, Police Say.  Resident Is Accused of Firing
at Man Who Was Sifting Household Garbage

A homeowner often annoyed by homeless people roaming his neighborhood shot
one to death early Monday as the man rummaged through trash outside his
house, Dallas police said.

Robert Sanchez, 38, opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun from his
second-story bedroom window.  Sanchez admitted to firing the shots.

The 50-year-old victim, whom police did not identify but was well known on
the streets as "New York," died about 3:30 a.m., about an hour after he was

"He (Robert Sanchez) asked them to stay away nicely, but they don't care,"
said Robert Brewer, who rents a room from Sanchez.  "It's sad that
something like this had to happen. Now, maybe they'll stay away."

The wounded homeless man was found near a rusted refrigerator and other
trash that Mr. Sanchez had left on the curb beside his home for pickup.

Mr. Sanchez told police the homeless man was trying to carry away the
refrigerator and was making a lot of noise.  Mr. Sanchez warned the man to
leave; when the homeless man refused, they argued before Mr. Sanchez
started shooting.

The homeless man was outside a wooden picket fence on Mr. Sanchez's
property line when he was shot., police said.

"We're trying to find out how threatened Mr. Sanchez felt," Police Sgt.
Kirkpatrick said

Jeffersonville, Indiana (Sept.)

Torching of Apartment Building Causes Death of Homeless Family

 An incendiary device was thrown through the window of an apartment
building housing homeless families causing the deaths of three homeless
people, ages, 40, 23 and 4 months old.  Three other families (15 people in
all) were made homeless again.  Three youth (ages 14--19) are prime
suspects in this triple murder

Rapid City, South Dakota (Sept.)

Homeless Men's Death a Mystery.  Corpses of Native Americans Tossed in Creek

Eight homeless men in 16 months have been found drowned in a stream near
Downtown Rapid City.  In typical years, only about one homeless turns up
drowned along the creek.

"There's just too many of them to say it's coincidence.  But it could be,"
said Police Chief Tom Hennies.

Six of the eight homeless men were Native Americans.

The homeless people who live under the bridges along the creek say they
believe someone is pushing unconscious or helpless drinkers in the water

Chief Standing Elk believes the killers to be racist skinheads.  He says
the creek people have banded together to chase some of them away.

Homeless people and others complain that the police are doing little to
investigate the deaths because most of the victims are Native Americans.

The two men who lead the task force investigating the deaths say they have
asked themselves whether they would do anything differently if the dead men
had been affluent whites.  Chief Sheriff's Deputy De Glassgow says he
believes the investigation is being conducted the same as if all the
victims had been white.  A $4,000 reward has been offered.

Portland, Oregon (August)

Three Youths Plead Guilty to Manslaughter, Face Prison in Brutal Beating Death

Three teens who beat to death a North Portland homeless man pleaded guilty
to second-degree manslaughter in exchange for 10-year prison sentences.
Prosecutors agreed to the manslaughter charges because the three did not
intend to kill the homeless man and he was alive when they left him.  In
addition, the teens did not use weapons, and the attack was not prolonged
although they severely punched and kicked him.  The man died of internal
injuries, including a lacerated liver and kidney, caused by blunt force
trauma to his stomach.

Anchorage (Summer)

Two Homeless People Killed

Police are investigating two deaths of homeless people this summer as
homicides, including that of a woman, Annie Mann, age 45, found dead behind
an abandoned warehouse.

Homeless outreach teams have reported breaking up "numerous fights between
street people and teens."

Seattle (August and March)

Teens Kill Two Homeless Men

A 46-year homeless man was fatally stabbed 18 times as he tried to sleep
beneath an interstate overpass in North Seattle.  Three teenagers have been
arrested and charged with the murder.  Prosecutors say that one teen
bragged about the killing, telling friends, "Let's just say there's one
less bum on the face of the Earth."

In March, a 14-year old was tried and convicted of first-degree murder in
the death of a 50- year-old homeless man.  After eating and drinking with
the man, the youth slammed him, and repeatedly struck him with a
skateboard, robbed him, and then stabbed him to death with a pocket knife.
The homeless man was found dead in a park with a dozen lacerations to his
head, and many stab wounds to his chest, neck, eyelid and leg.

Seven days after the killing, Seattle police got a report that the teen was
bragging to his friends that he had beaten and killed a bum.

The youth was sentenced to juvenile detention until age 21.

Chicago (July)

Homeless Man Doused with Flammable Chemical

On July 14, Cleotha Mitchell fell asleep on a park bench.  While he slept,
someone doused him with a flammable chemical and set him on fire.  If a
jogger had not seen him and put out the fire, Cleotha would have surely
burned to death.  Instead, he will live with scars from third degree burns
over 20% of his body and an emotional scar the rest of his life.  His only
offense was being homeless.

Police claim this was an isolated incident, but homeless people say
otherwise.  They cite numerous incidents of assault and murder of homeless
people as they slept.

Cleotha Mitchell continues to have nightmares about waking up on fire.  He
is afraid to go back to that neighborhood even though his family and
support systems are there.

The police have visited him once, but he has no idea what is happening with
his case.

Los Angeles (May)

A Police Shooting Death, A Study in Contrasts

Margaret Mitchell, 55, a 5-foot-1-inch, 102 pound widow, was shot to death
by a Los Angeles police officer who had approached her with his partner on
bicycle patrol to ask if the shopping cart she was pushing was stolen.

Los Angeles police had recently begun cracking down on homeless people and
confiscating their shopping carts.

The police say Mrs. Mitchell brandished a foot-long screwdriver and
threatened to kill the officers, until one of them, stumbling as he ducked
to avoid her, feared for his safety and fired.

But at least two witnesses who dispute the police account, saying that they
saw nothing in Mrs. Mitchell's hand and that she never threatened the

Many activists are asking why two police officers couldn't have found a
less lethal way to subdue a 55-year-old woman who was only 5 feet, 1 inches
tall and weighed 102 pounds.

Police Chief  Bernard Parks said it did not appear that his officers had
"done anything wrong."   He questioned why Mrs. Mitchell's family had not
done more to help her and complained that critics of his department were
seeking to exploit the incident for their own ends.

In October of 1999, Chief Parks has determined that the officer who shot
Mrs. Mitchell used faulty tactics, but did not violate department policy.
If Parks' views are adopted, the two officers would have to receive
training to improve their tactics.

In response to the Chief Parks' decision,  the Los Angeles Coalition to End
Hunger & Homelessness has called on the Civilian Police Commission to
conduct an independent investigation.

"We really found it to be a paradox.  How can you have a faulty tactic and
still have it within policy.   It doesn't make sense," said Bob Erlenbusch,
director of the Los Angeles Coalition.

The Los Angeles Coalition also presented the Civilian Police Commission
with 10 recommendations to improve police training, including more time in
learning how to recognize mental illnesses, and how to handle mentally ill
homeless people.

Portland (OR) (May and July)

On July 14, the City of Portland provided $125,000 to provide 30 more
temporary beds as the results of the killings of three women in May.

The shelter needs of homeless women have received greater attention since
May, when three women were found strangled in Forest Park.  That a serial
killer could be responsible prompted 11 social service agencies and
religious groups to demand more emergency shelter, and has heightened
awareness of the dangers and difficulties of those living on the streets.

On July 20, a Todd Reed, 32, was arraigned in connection with the
strangulations of the three women found in Forest Park.  He was charged
with three counts of aggravated murder.

Reed apparently made contact with the victims, Lilla Moler, 28, Stephanie
Russell, 26, and Alexandria Ison, 17, along West Burnside St.--an area
where prostitution is out in the open.  All three victims were heroin
addicts, and two were involved in prostitution.

"They were connected by a lifestyle he preyed upon, " said Detective Sgt.
Kris Ferrell.

Police said they received about 600 tips as they investigated the
killings--some from prostitutes, the victims' friends and others.

The arrest brought slight relief at Rose Haven, a center for homeless women
in the Old Town/Skid Road area of Downtown Portland.  Homeless advocates
expressed relief, gratitude for tenacious police work, renewed sadness for
the deaths of the women,  cautious optimism that the right man had been
caught, and extreme frustration that Portland's streets still are dangerous.

Richmond (VA) (March)

Homeless Man Beheaded

In the month before his slaying and beheading on March 1, Henry
Northington, 39, found a measure of peace and grace among Richmond's
homeless population.

Police still have no motive or suspect in the slaying which apparently
occurred near a cemetery.  The killer or killers then carried his head
nearly a mile, carefully placing it on the footbridge, apparently as some
sort of message, police believe.

While the ghastly nature of Northington's death has some in the gay
community fearing that this was a hate crime, many in the homeless
community are also wondering if he was killed and beheaded because he was a
street person.

San Francisco (February)

Beatings of Three Homeless People Under a Freeway

On Feb. 12, three homeless people living under a freeway overpass were beaten.

A homeless couple said the incident began early in the morning when he and
his wife were awakened to calls for help from a homeless woman friend who
was being attacked by three assailants armed with nunchucks and steel rods.
He and his wife responded immediately.

Nearby campers identified the attackers for police, who arrested two men,
18 and 20 years old, and a 28-year-old woman.

"We got beat up pretty good....   My wife's forehead and back of her head
are busted open," said the husband.  She also fractured both of her hands.

The husband suffered a broken arm in the attack in addition to the gash on
his head.

"They didn't attack us for money," he said.  "They didn't try to rob us.
It was a hate crime."

National Coalition for the Homeless
1012 Fourteenth Street, NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005-3405
Phone: 202-737-6444
Fax: 202-737-6445
Email: nch@ari.net
Web: http://nch.ari.net


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